Contract negotiations boil down to the thread between the trustees and management of Sabis International Charter School in Springfield
SPRINGFIELD – With just four days left on their contract, the board of directors of Sabis International Charter School and Springfield Education Management LLC have failed to come to an agreement to renew it.
Springfield Education Management is the local representative of the Sabis Network, which provides the curriculum for schools around the world, including Holyoke Community Charter School.
In Springfield, negotiations have been underway since February 2020, but the already extended contract expires on May 31. If the board and the management company cannot reach an agreement, the school will lose the right to use the name Sabis and curriculum.
A meeting scheduled for May 27 to discuss the situation has been postponed until 6 p.m. Tuesday, as Monday is a national holiday. The online meeting will be open to the public.
The conflict is who has authority over the school principal. Under the current contract, the manager reports to Sabis. The 12-member board is divided over who should have that control, although the majority voted on April 15 and again on May 20 in favor of taking office.
Atu White, chairman of the board, said he believed it was time for the board to have autonomy over the director based on information he received from the State Department of primary and secondary education.
The ministry granted Sabis a charter renewal for 2021-25 based on several conditions. The ministry said the board “has not consistently provided adequate oversight of the school’s relationship with Springfield Education Management” and requested that the board submit a contract proposal that “guarantees autonomy and the authority of the school board ”.
White also estimates that with an approximate fee of $ 2.5 million per year, Springfield Education Management should make improvements in another area highlighted by the state – the academic performance of students in Grades 3 to 8. in math, English and science.
“This is the first time in the history of the school that we have had consecutive conditional renewals. Although there are many bright areas and great things happening in our school, we cannot ignore the second conditional renewal which is strongly reflected from the third to the eighth grade, ”he said.
Board member John Delaney said while there can still be improvements he believes Sabis has run the school effectively over the past 26 years.
“I have a long and deep history with the school itself. My daughter was on the waiting list for many years because she was struggling at her old school. She entered eighth and it really changed her life, ”he said, adding that his son is currently a student there and is thriving despite the academic difficulties.
Since opening in 1995, the school has maintained a nearly 100% graduation rate, Delaney said, with most students going to two or four-year colleges.
If an agreement cannot be reached on the wording of the contract, another option would be for the board of directors to purchase a license agreement from Sabis, which would allow it to retain the name and program while exercising control over the director. .
White said that if an effective principal is running the school, there is no need to go through a management company.
“If there was no SEM, the board wouldn’t be doing day-to-day operations. The school principal would be responsible for it, ”he said. “If you have a fully operational, capable and knowledgeable manager, he can lead the day-to-day operations. They don’t need to hold hands.
Danelle Skorka has been a teacher at Sabis for over 21 years. She has listened to the recent meetings and is hopeful that the board will come to an agreement with Sabis.
“I think the staff fought hard for many years to keep the Sabis name alive because we served children in the city of Springfield who would not have made it in public schools,” he said. she declared. “I meet students who are now between 20 and 30 years old and they are proud to have graduated from Sabis. We have so many success stories. “
Skorka said she has been through many charter renewals and contract negotiations, but this one looks overwhelmingly negative.
“I think the board and Sabis really need to come to some sort of agreement because a lot of teachers, especially the younger ones, are not going to keep waiting while they solve this problem,” he said. she declared. “They’re afraid of what’s going to happen and a lot of them are going to leave the ship. Sadly, this conflict will ultimately affect the children we are here to provide for. “
On May 24, the school principal, Maretta Thomsen, sent a letter to staff informing them of the continuation of contract negotiations and alerting them to possible management and program changes for the upcoming summer school and the school year 2021-2022.
“It is very difficult to be in this place right now, but we are focused on providing the highest quality education possible to our children until the very last day of school, and then we will resume it at go from there, ”she said.
Thomsen said everyone at school was aware of what was going on.
“It’s no secret, and I got a lot of calls after sending them the letter, but I never told or described to our teachers that the jobs were in danger,” he said. she declared. “I asked them to stay positive and keep doing what they are doing. I hope the board and Sabis can come to an agreement that will be in the best interests of our students.
Raipher Pellegrino, lawyer for Springfield Education Management, said he was hopeful that a resolution could be found.
“We are optimistic that the language proposed by SEM should solve these problems. We hope that the board will allow a dialogue at the meeting on Tuesday to resolve this issue and move forward in the education of students for the next five years, ”he said.
Tuesday’s meeting is open via Zoom or by phone at 1-646-558-8656, using meeting ID 820 0067 8045 and passcode 594571.